Clerestory Window and Triformium

‘I am going to condense Gaudí’s clerestory window for the Sagrada Família church as the case study for both this chapter and the next. The clerestory window runs along the length of the central nave illuminating the central aisle over 35 metres below. This is an important architectural element of Gaudí’s final design for the nave of the church. When he died he had only seen the design at scales of 1:25 and 1:10. I had the task of unravelling the geometry of the window and of ultimately producing the documentation for actual construction. This work took me from being deeply embedded in traditional media through to developing into a total believer in scripting by the time the window was built. Scripting has been used in a number of ways, and this chapter will give the sense of the variety of coding that might be applied to this one project.

From 1914 until his death in 1926, Gaudí’s architectural production entered a new and final phase, which although revealing links to all his preceding work, nevertheless exhibits qualities, depth and tension that place it in an entirely new domain. Debates around such taxonomic grouping vary in intensity and relevance.
The construction of the Sagrada Família church represents a problematic enterprise, continuing as it has and will do, not only for the 43 years of Gaudí’s long career (he qualified in 1878 and practised until his death), but also for more than three quarters of a century following his death, and continues today. Needless to say, the  continuation of the works has produced problems that have challenged the most contemporary of resources – including information technology. There is no doubt that the work as Gaudí had planned it could have continued using the traditional techniques he so favoured, despite the difficulties he himself set up and was so conspicuously unable to surmount in the time available to him.

While digital assistance is not a sine qua non of the project’s viability today, there are nevertheless opportunities for reiterative and reflective design techniques that Gaudí might well have elected to adopt had they been available at the time. The techniques harnessed today take the work forward at a pace commensurate with opportunities offered by a codex of surface composition that Gaudí bequeathed his successors. A combination of digital representation of the design of the building and a range of automated material preparation techniques come together to allow construction to continue at a significantly accelerated pace. Interestingly, the new techniques sponsor a richer appreciation of Gaudí’s mind’s eye. In seeking to represent a distillation of Gaudí’s three-dimensional thinking for constructional or intellectual understanding, we reveal further insights into his unique conceptual abilities. In this final period, we find Gaudí working with an architecture of real absence, and an architecture of virtual presence.’

Text taken from Chapter 6 ‘Scripted productivity: Gaudí’s rose windows’, Scripting Cultures: Architectural Design and Programming, John Wiley and Sons Ltd, London, 2012

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